Proceed With Caution: David Montgomery
Sleepers, breakouts, and busts are buzzwords you’re going to hear from now until the NFL season kicks off Thursday night in Tampa Bay. Being the guy who grabs the sleeper or breakout late in the draft and rides them to fantasy goodness is always nice. However, and more importantly, players who bust will ultimately have a more severe impact on the roster, so let’s look at a potential bust for 2021.
Heading into last season, David Montgomery was coming off a disappointing rookie campaign where his ADP was wildly inflated. After disappointing owners his rookie season, Montgomery came down to earth, entering last season with an ADP of RB27. People were grabbing this guy as the 3rd or 4th RB on their roster. Fast forward to the end of the year, and Montgomery sits at the RB4, averaging almost 16 points per game. What a steal this guy was if you were able to grab him as your 3rd or even 4th RB. Players have high hopes for Montgomery again this season, but if we look under the hood, I think Montgomery will end up in the bust category this season.
A lot of the concerns about Montgomery’s fantasy season come from volume. Now, Montgomery did improve as a runner from his rookie to sophomore year, bumping up his Y/A from 3.7 to 4.3. However, some other statistics pop off the page. Here’s a few things that caught my eye:
- 707 Total Snaps: 2nd amongst RBs
- 50.5% Snap Share: 3rd amongst RBs
- 68 Targets: 6th amongst RBs
- 301 Total Touches: 4th amongst RBs
At first glance you might be thinking, “what’s the problem?” Of course, people want a RB that will get plenty of volume. But is Montgomery’s volume sustainable? If you remember, Tarik Cohen had been an important part of the Bears’ offense the last two seasons, and suffered a season ending injury early last year. Cohen appeared in three games before being sidelined.
Now, I know it’s a small sample size, but let’s look at Montgomery’s volume the first three weeks of the season. In the first three games with Cohen, Montgomery averaged 37 snaps per game. From Week 4 onwards, he was averaging 54 snaps per game. His snaps per game and snap share percentage spiked once Cohen went down. During the first three weeks, Cohen and Montgomery had gotten 9 targets a piece, essentially splitting the passing work 50/50. Cohen’s injury led the way for Montgomery getting more work in the passing game, averaging over 5 targets per game from Week 4 onward. Another point to add here, is that Montgomery missed 2 games last season, and was STILL near the top in the league with his volume. That just goes to show how much volume Montgomery was really getting each week. Once Cohen went down, the Bears had essentially nothing outside of Montgomery at RB. The next closest player was Cordarelle Patterson, an old WR turned RB, who accumulated only 232 rushing yards on 64 carries. That was the second leading rusher on the Bears last season. Third leading rusher? Mitchell Trubisky. Montgomery was essentially all alone, and force-fed once Cohen went down.
Heading into 2021, not only is Tarik Cohen expected back but the Bears signed free-agent RB Damien Williams from the Chiefs as well. Williams has a solid resume and comes over after opting out of the 2020 season. Now guys like Williams and Cohen don’t really pose a threat to Montgomery’s starting job. But we saw last season that Montgomery’s production seems to be a byproduct of massive volume due to him being the only RB standing after Week 3. The Bears’ offensive line ranked #20 last season by PFF and they spent two high draft picks to address that. But we’ve seen rookies take time to acclimate, and especially offensive lines take time to gel. The OL is another minor concern I have for this offense in 2021. His improvement in efficiency was nice to see, but he still isn’t ripping off runs at an uber-efficient clip. 4.3 Y/A ranks 27th in the NFL last year, not overly impressive.
A Running Back with average efficiency, and an average offensive line, needs tons of volume to be valuable in fantasy, and I think Montgomery sees significantly less volume than last season. I expect Montgomery to see less snaps, overall touches, and especially targets as the RB room gets a bit more crowded in Chicago. A far cry from his RB4 finish last season, I think Montgomery will finish outside the top 20 RBs in 2021, making him a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay true.
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